The federal government has unveiled its industry roadmap for building a viable Australian artificial intelligence sector to coincide with the Karen Andrews-inspired AI Summit at Old Parliament House .
The roadmap, which had been authored by CSIRO’s Data61 in conjunction with advisory firm AlphaBeta, identified three primary areas where Australia might enjoy some natural advantages over international competitors and have the best opportunity to create new value, and new businesses.
- AI for better health, aged care and disability services with the aim to reduce healthcare costs and improve wellbeing
- AI for towns, cities and infrastructure, with the aim to improve the safety, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality of the built environment
- AI for better natural resource management, to reduce costs and improve productivity across agriculture, fisheries, forestry and environmental management
For CSIRO chief executive officer Larry Marshall, the AI Roadmap process, which included lengthy consultations with industry, academia and government, was a good opportunity to refine the focus of Australia’s finite resources.
“Australia obviously can’t compete if we try to boil the ocean on this – we simply can’t do everything,” Dr Marshall told InnovationAus.com. “So, from our perspective we looked at where we can do AI for purpose that is kind of unique to our natural advantages,”
“We were asking where can focus, to more effort into fewer, bigger things, rather than trying to do it all,” he said.
Dr Marshall said the focus of Australia’s efforts in building AI to create new industries (or transform existing ones) must be on job creation and tackling national challenges. This was the best way to get the rest of the population behind the adoption of artificial intelligence across the economy.
Even as national governments across the world pour tens of billions of dollars a year into new AI research programs, Dr Marshall concedes the mainstream conversation in Australia – that is, outside of the science and tech communities – is still in its very earliest stages.
And that Australia is late into the game. Making it all the m ore important to target early work on delivery clear benefit, especially in areas where there is an opportunity for job creation, to demonstrate for broad consumption the notion that automation is not a job-killer.
The CSIRO had invested $19 million on AI project work in the three areas of focus outlined in the AI roadmap, in order “to give us a bit of kick-start to take some of the stull we’re already doing and to scale it up, to see if we can get business and government a bit more interested in how [the work] can really help.”
The release of the report coincides with Techtonic, the National AI Summit at old Parliament House, where Industry minister Karen Andrews convened more than 100 academic and industry representatives to chew through issues facing the further development of an Ai sector.
“Our challenge is getting all Australians to embrace AI, transforming the anxiety and uncertainty into excitement and anticipation,” Mrs Andrews said.
“And this means preparing the economy and community, so we can adapt and transform to maximise the gains that AI will bring. “It’s a challenge the Government is tackling with a number of measures. We are determined to create an environment where AI helps the Australian economy and society thrive,” she said.
Labor innovation spokesman Clare O’Neil attacked government’s record on AI, saying its policy discussion had arrived late and under-resourced.
“The Morrison Government thinks Australia’s share of this AI windfall will magically appear without any meaningful support or investment,” Ms O’Neil said.
“China is seeking to invest more than $30 billion in AI and related technologies. Stanford University has recommended the US government invest $120 billion in AI initiatives over the next decade,” she said.
“Other developed nations are also stepping up. France has committed $2.4 billion to AI over five years; the South Korean government has committed $2.7 billion.
“In Australia, the Morrison Government has committed to $29.9 million over four years. That is just 0.1 per cent of what is being invested by China.”